Four Tips for Great Leadership

In the past three and a half years, Saratoga Roofing & Construction of Oklahoma City has grown from $6.5 million in annual revenue and four employees to a company earning $50 million with 265 employees. To what do we attribute this phenomenal growth? Great leadership.

It has been said: “A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader. A great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” Being a great leader takes commitment, confidence and clarity. The old-school method of employing scare tactics—“If you don’t do what I tell you to do, then there’s the door!”—doesn’t cut it anymore in today’s business world. Besides, if you still subscribe to the “It’s my way or the highway” way of thinking, you’re going to alienate everyone who works in your company or organization and nothing will be accomplished. During my career, I have experienced owners and/or leaders who used authoritarian leadership and, in my opinion, they will not make it during the next decade.

Denver Green, Saratoga Roofing & Construction’s president, shares four reasons why Saratoga will continue to be a successful company during the next decade:

1) We continuously work to set a clear direction for our teams. Clarity will always lead to desired results. If you aren’t clear about where you’re going, do you think your team will be? As a leader, my role is to be the visionary who paints the picture for them to follow. If our leaders aren’t clear about the necessary steps our staff needs to accomplish goal, then a lot of time is going to be wasted running around in circles. Our consultant, Masterthink, ensures every company executive has a clear goal with action plans tied to dates and people who are accountable for executing the goal. If needed, we draw a roadmap on paper outlining the full process, starting with the objective and detailing what each person is responsible to complete. The better your directions are, the easier it will be to meet the goal.

2) I work hard to make sure my actions match my intentions and visions. As the leader, I always need to know what I envision being the final outcome of the project/task we’re asking our employees to execute. Do you want to “wow” a client with an exceptional product presentation? Can you see the final project completed? What does it look like to you? Are you excited about this task? The level of my commitment and enthusiasm needs to come across loud and clear to our team. If I’m “ho hum” about the outcome, then guess what? That’s the attitude that will be adopted by members of my team. Some of us are “big picture” thinkers. We forget about all the details that lead to the big picture, but as the leader of Saratoga, I can’t allow myself to let those last-minute details slide. If I do, then the final outcome will definitely not be to our liking.

3) Creating a cohesive team has been a real key to our success but also a big challenge. I must have confidence in my team and their abilities. Knowing who fits in where on our team is crucial to creating success. We know it is critical to assign the “right” people to the “right” tasks. If one of our employees doesn’t like dispatching but loves to work on data entry, then we assign him or her that job. Knowing the strengths of each member of our team is crucial in achieving a successful end result. Forcing someone to take on duties he or she absolutely hates creates resentment, and resentment slows down the entire project or leads to poor performance. Our company utilizes the online assessment tool StrengthsFinder as a means to understand
the strengths of our employees so we can maximize their abilities and strengths to the fullest extent.

4) Work smarter, not harder. I know we have heard this phrase a million times, but it bears repeating. Learning to delegate the workload to the right person will lift some of the weight of turning in a top-notch end result off your own shoulders. My role is to be the visionary—not the micro-manager. I model what it means to be a leader and a follower and, in turn, I take great pride in inspiring and creating great leaders for the future.

As a member of the Saratoga Roofing & Construction team, I can truly say this is the “Saratoga Difference”.

Cold-weather Considerations

During the next several months, it will not be unusual to see roofing crews working hard to complete projects or trying to get an early start on spring projects. Executing roofing projects during the cold months of winter creates a unique set of safety hazards and challenges for designers, contractors and building owners. Not understanding or failing to address cold-weather considerations will impact installation quality and long-term roof performance.

In many cases, designers don’t plan on specifying a roof system specifically for installation during the cold winter weather. However, anticipated funding approval and construction schedules can change, quite often forcing a designer to make changes to accommodate the cold weather. Designers should consider changes related to roof installation methods, as well as adhesive type, to ensure the roof can be installed as designed in colder, potentially snowy, wet weather.

Materials

This adhesive is not stored properly.

This bonding adhesive is not stored properly.

When choosing materials to install, it is important to remember most roofing materials are not designed to be installed in cold-weather situations, especially when ambient temperatures dip below 40 F. Membranes, adhesives, equipment and contractors will perform differently in colder temperatures, so planning ahead and considering how the cold weather will impact material selection, installation time and quality is critical.

Membrane: Storing roof membrane at the job site during warm months is straightforward: Keep the rolls off the ground and protect them from moisture using breathable tarpaulins. As the weather grows colder, the dew point and temperature typically come closer together, increasing the potential for condensation and frost forming on materials. Keep material goods warm and dry by storing them inside a conditioned space or in a heated job trailer. Keeping materials warm and dry will reduce the risk of moisture being introduced into the roof system during construction and minimize the possibility of blisters and other deficiencies in the completed roof system. In addition, material rolls will become more rigid as they get colder, requiring additional time to kick out and relax before installing.

Adhesives and asphalt: When dealing with membrane adhesives, there are generally two main categories to consider solvent-based and waterborne adhesives. Recently, the use of waterborne adhesives has been growing steadily as a result of low odor and VOC code requirements. Both types of adhesives have similar manufacturer recommendations for storage temperature, typically between 60 and 80 F.

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Nashville, Tenn., Begins Revitalization of Its City Center with a New Convention Space that Features a Truly Unique Roof

It isn’t often that a nightmare becomes a pleasant reality. Andy Baker, vice president of Raleigh, N.C.- based Baker Roofing, recalls the year he spent as project manager for the roofing of the new Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn., as one of his most challenging jobs. “The logistics, a tight spot downtown, the size of the project and everything that goes along with that—thousands of people trying to work and everyone needs their material in that area at the same time. Even the unique shape of the building made it hard,” Baker remembers. “We’re glad it’s done and we can look back on it now and say: ‘Wow! We did that.’”

The Music City Center was built to be the catalyst for more development in the SoBro neighborhood of Nashville, Tenn. It is intended to create a diverse economy that won’t be affected if flooding occurs, like in May 2010.

The Music City Center was built to be the catalyst for more development in the SoBro neighborhood of Nashville, Tenn. It is intended to create a diverse economy that won’t be affected if flooding occurs, like in May 2010.

Baker and his crew of up to 50 roofing workers have much to be proud of. The completed project is the largest capital construction project in Nashville’s history and was designed to bring prosperity to the area known as SoBro, or South of Broadway, which was affected by massive flooding in May 2010. The Music City Center lies outside the flood-prone areas and hopefully will be the catalyst for more development, which will create a diverse economy that won’t be affected if another flood occurs.

In addition to the Music City Center’s imaginative design that resembles various musical instruments, the building boasts a number of features that are ideal for a high-profile project. Many of these features are located in the most opportune of places—the roof. An Energy Star-qualified thermoplastic PVC membrane covers the 643,752-squarefoot roof while a 186,700-square-foot vegetated roof literally mimics the rolling hills of Tennessee’s Highland Rim. The rooftop also hosts a 211-kilowatt solar-power system on the 1-acre area that is over the Grand Ballroom, a rooftop space that resembles an acoustic guitar in shape. Lastly, the roof collects rainwater that is funneled to a 360,000-gallon tank before it is used to irrigate the site and flush hundreds of toilets inside.

Construction Challenges

Baker and his colleagues knew the Music City Center would present many challenges even before work began. “We knew it was going to be a logistical nightmare going in but then you have to live it,” he recalls. “You would think four city blocks would be a large enough area to work from but there were thousands of contractors working and receiving materials at the same time. Trying to keep truck drivers and suppliers happy was difficult. The community was great though; there were a lot of police officers around to direct traffic.”

Baker Roofing's team of up to 50 roofing workers spent one year working on the Music City Center.

Baker Roofing’s team of up to 50 roofing workers spent one year working on the Music City Center.

Installation also proved perplexing because of the roof’s undulating slopes of 1/4:12 to 12:12. Baker likens the rolls to waves and points out in some places they were almost conical in shape. In the areas in which there was no vegetated roof, the crew fastened two layers of 1.7-inch polyisocyanurate insulation followed by 1/4-inch roof board. Then a 60-mil thermoplastic PVC membrane in a light gray color was fully adhered to the assembly. The membrane features a lacquer coating to reduce dirt pickup.

Photos: Keri Baker

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Rooftop Alterations, Like Skylights and Roof Monitors, Can Drive Building Value and Performance

Rooftops are an immensely underutilized resource for optimizing building performance. Rooftop strategies can include painting the roof white or installing a solar reflective “cool roof” to reduce summer cooling loads; covering the roof with vegetation to improve insulation, reduce storm-water runoff and provide community spaces; and mounting solar photovoltaic or solar hot-water panels to reduce utility bills.

The multiple functions of rooftop monitors. RENDERING: FCGA Architects

The multiple functions of rooftop monitors. RENDERING: FCGA Architects

Adding daylighting and ventilation through skylights and roof monitors is a strategy with growing popularity and potential. Common sense might lead us to believe that penetrating the roof with skylights and monitors could compromise a building’s insulation and thermal performance. However, with the availability of advanced products, such as glazing, suspended film and high-performance sealants, well-designed and constructed rooftop penetrations can successfully lower energy costs and improve occupant comfort and health.

Rooftop prescriptions vary for every individual project, and a variety of factors must be considered before proceeding with construction. For example, rooftop penetrations will primarily only affect the floor directly beneath the rooftop, so single-story buildings or multistory buildings with a central atrium are ideal. When further determining which types of projects would benefit from roof penetrations, the design team must perform thorough climatic analysis, examine the existing infrastructure and occupancy conditions, and weigh all variables through cost balancing. Before diving deep into analysis, it’s important to understand different types of rooftop penetrations in this capacity and how their design and operational synergies can enhance the value and performance of a building.

Design Synergies

Traditional skylights, tubular skylights and roof monitors are the main types of rooftop daylighting/ventilation penetrations and should be considered individually because of their varying benefits. Traditional skylights offer natural daylight, which can improve the health and productivity of building occupants. Tubular skylights capture sunlight from a small, clear dome on the roof; pass the light through a highly reflective tube; and diffuse the light through a lens into the building. Because of their high efficacy and smaller penetration area, tubular skylights have better thermal performance and are more suitable for harsher climates than traditional skylights.

Roof monitors are vertical fenestrations built into raised structures atop the roof. If the monitors are operational, they contribute exponential building-performance enhancements beyond the other penetration types, including stack-effect ventilation. The figure above depicts the many functions of roof monitors: natural daylighting, ventilation, passive heating and cooling, glare reduction and structural support for rooftop solar-power systems.

As with skylights, roof monitors help disperse natural daylight more evenly and completely throughout a room than windows on the side of a building. When paired with thermal mass, such as concrete or water, vertical glazing on the roof helps capture heat from the sun to offset the building’s heating load.

Glare presents a big problem for worker productivity in buildings; careful design of roof monitors and ceiling systems can help distribute the light and reduce contrast glare. Finally, monitors can be topped with angled roofing that matches the optimal sun exposure angle for solar panels mounted atop.

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Attention Roof System Designers: Numerous Roof Components Work Together to Affect a Building

There has been a great deal of opinion expressed in the past 15 years related to the roof cover(s), or the top surface of a roof system, such as “it can save you energy” and “it will reduce urban heat islands”. These opinions consequently have resulted in standards and code revisions that have had an extraordinary effect on the roofing industry.

The building type should influence the type of roof system designed. Some spaces, like this steel plant, are unconditioned, so insulation in the roof system is not desired.

The building type should influence the type of roof system designed. Some spaces, like this steel plant, are unconditioned, so insulation in the roof system is not desired.

Let’s say it loud and clear, “A single component, does not a roof make!”. Roofs are systems, composed of numerous components that work and interact together to affect the building in question. Regardless of your concern or goal—energy performance, urban heat-island minimization, long-term service life (in my opinion, the essence of sustainability) or protection from the elements—the performance is the result of an assembled set of roof system components.

Roof System Components

Energy conservation is an often-discussed potential of roofs, but many seem to think it is the result of only the roof-cover color. I think not. Energy performance is the result of many factors, including but not limited to:

Building use: Is the building an office, school, hospital, warehouse, fabrication facility, etc.? Each type of building use places different requirements on the roof system.

Spatial use and function be low the roof deck: It is not uncommon in urban areas to have mechanical rooms or interstitial spaces below the roof—spaces that require little to no heating or cooling. These spaces are typically unconditioned and unoccupied and receive no material benefit from the roof system in regard to energy savings.

Roof-deck type: The type of roof deck—whether steel; cast-in-place, precast and post-tensioned concrete; gypsum; cementitious wood fiber; or (don’t kill the messenger) plywood, which is a West Coast anomaly—affects air and moisture transport toward the exterior, as well as the type of roof system.

Roof-to-wall transition(s): The transition of the roofing to walls often results in unresolved design issues, as well as cavities that allow moisture and vapor transport.

Meanwhile others, like this indoor pool, require extreme care in design and should include a vapor retarder and insulation.

Meanwhile others, like this indoor pool, require extreme care in design and
should include a vapor retarder and insulation.

Roof air and/or vapor barrier: Its integration into the wall air barrier is very important. Failure to tie the two together creates a breach in the barrier.

Substrate board: Steel roof decks often require a substrate board to support the air and vapor barrier membranes. The substrate board also can be the first layer of the roof system to provide wind-uplift resistance.

Insulation type: Each insulation type—whether polyisocyanurate, expanded polystyrene, extruded polystyrene, wood fiber, foam glass or mineral wool—has differing R-values, some of which drop with time. Many insulation types have differing facer options and densities.

The number of insulation layers: This is very important! A single layer of insulation results in a high level of energy loss; 7 percent is the industry standard. When installing multiple layers of insulation, the joints should be offset from layer to layer to avoid vapor movement and thermal shorts.

Sealing: Voids between rooftop penetrations, adjacent board and the roof-edge perimeters can create large avenues for heat loss.

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A Solar Installer Explains the Many Ways Roofing Contractors Can Be Involved in Solar Installations

The solar-power industry has changed dramatically in the past five years. Products and manufacturers have come and gone; tax incentives have become less attractive; and requirements for utilities to maintain a certain percentage of their energy portfolio from renewable sources are not enough to help the market in most places. Despite these negatives, unique financing mechanisms and the remarkable decrease in the cost of solar panels keep the industry booming. These ups and downs demonstrate why Matthew Bennett, vice president for design and engineering and founder of Dovetail Solar & Wind, Athens, Ohio, refers to the industry as the “solar coaster”.

Bennett’s business, which was established in 1995, installs solar on residential and commercial buildings. As such, he has worked with a number of roofing contractors over the years and sees synergies between the trades. Roofing asked Bennett how roofing contractors and solar installers can improve their relationship and achieve successful solar installations upon watertight roofs.

Roofing: When must you coordinate with roofing contractors?

Bennett: On almost every commercial roof where roof penetrations are required we’ll have a roofer come in and flash the penetrations and sometimes install a sleeve to get our conduit off the roof and into the building.commercial solar array

The other common reason for coordinating with a roofer is because the roof may be under warranty. Sometimes the warranty is held by the roof manufacturer, so we receive a list of roofers who can do the inspection. Usually there’s an inspection that needs to happen before and after the solar installation. We’re sometimes paying $1,000 to get inspections.

A lot of times we’re not fastening solar panels to flat commercial roofs; we’re installing what’s called a ballasted system where we may need to use an approved pad or put down an additional membrane to protect the roof from the pan that is holding ballast and keeping the array on the roof. Sometimes different roofing manufacturers are picky about what they allow on the roof and different kinds of roofs require different treatment, so it’s important to have a good roofing contractor available.

Roofing: When you hire contractors, what are you looking for?

Bennett: We’re looking for a roofing contractor that does quality work at a fair price because, I’ll be honest, we’ve been overcharged by roofers more than any other subcontractor. We take notes when we work with a roofing contractor: how easy they are to work with, how responsive they are to emails and phone calls, the quality of work and the price. We know roughly what to expect after being in business all these years. If we get a fair quote from a recommended contractor, we’ll often go with them without looking at other bids. We prefer to use a roofer who is familiar with the roof. A good relationship with the customer also is an important consideration.

Roofing: Are there situations in which you defer entirely to the roofing contractor?

Bennett: It’s a little unusual. We just put a system on a slate roof on a million-dollar home. The roof was very steep and we didn’t even want to get on the slate, so we hired the roofer to install the rails and solar panels. We did all the electrical work and procurement. We provided one of our crew leaders to be there the entire time to train the roofing crew and help them because they had no experience with solar. They knew how to get around on a slate roof and mount the solar flashing and they actually installed the whole array. They did it in not much more time than we would’ve done it. We were very impressed with them.

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A Review of Slate Roofs: Design and Installation Manual

The Fair St. Christian Church, Springfield, Ohio, features North Country Black, Vermont Unfading Green and Vermont Unfading Red.

The Fair St. Christian
Church, Springfield, Ohio,
features North Country Black, Vermont Unfading Green and Vermont Unfading Red.

Over the years, I have read every slate and sheet-metal book I have been able to get my hands on. The National Slate Association’s Slate Roofs: Design and Installation Manual, 2010 edition, is by far the most comprehensive and practically designed slate roofing book I have read. As a slate roofing contractor, I recognize the value of the information being put forth in this book. It is loaded with information, ranging from the basic characteristics of slate through some of the most complex installation details relating to slate roofing and affiliated sheet-metal details. The details are designed to match the intended life cycle of a slate roof, which should last a century or more with proper care.

Too often I see architectural details that are over- or under-designed. If they are over-designed, the result is likely a much higher price for the building owner. Also, over-designed roofs many times have the unintended consequence of failing prematurely. On paper, the detail looks like it will last a lifetime but experience shows some of these details just will not work in the field. Under-designed roofs just cannot stand up to the 100-year life cycle of a slate roof. The details the NSA brings forth in this publication have been time-tested and provide a standard way for designers to create a roof design that will stand the test of time.

I believe if this book can become the standard from which all slate roof installers, designers and building owners can work, then we will all win. When the details are correct the first time around, the building owner will end up with the best roof possible without a bloated budget caused by inefficient design; the designer does not end up with a strained relationship with the contractor and building owner because of poor design; and the contractor is able to correctly install a long-lasting slate roof and create another satisfied customer.

The 2010 NSA manual has become the main source of information for slate roofing for my roofing company.

The National Slate Association

Slate has long played a part in the architecture of the new world. It was first introduced to the U.S. as ballast for ships coming across the Atlantic in the 1600s. Slate roofs have been found by archeological excavations in Jamestown, Va., dating as early as 1625, according to Preservation Brief 29, “The Repair, Replacement, and Maintenance of Historic Slate Roofs,” from the National Park Service, Washington, D.C.

Nearly a decade after our nation’s independence, the first slate quarry opened in Peach Bottom Township, Pa. From 1785, slate roofing production grew rapidly and hit its all-time peak around 1914. There were active quarries in Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia. In 1915, slate roofing began to slowly decline because WWI took many of the able-bodied men, leaving quarries short of workers.

In 1922, the Poultney, Vt.-based National Slate Association was formed to promote the use of slate in roofing and structural applications. Many of the first U.S. slate standards were set in a book by the organization called Slate Roofs. However, the association became inactive in the late 1920s because of a lack of cohesion.National Slate Association logo

In 2002, a historic meeting took place in Sarasota Springs, N.Y. A group of slate manufacturers, roofers, architects, consultants and other interested parties met and reorganized the National Slate Association and formed a three-member board of directors. Matt Millen, Millen Roofing, Milwaukee, became the first president of the association. Today, the board of directors
includes 15 diverse members who are determined to ensure slate will be used extensively around the country. The National Slate Association’s purpose is to promote excellence in slate roofing practices through the development and dissemination of technical information, standards and educational resources.

To ensure it meets its goals, the association has implemented hail testing for the purpose of knowing the thicknesses of slates needed in hail-prone areas and fire testing to certify slate as a fire-resistant material for insurance companies. It also released Slate Roofs: Design and Installation Manual, which won the Rosemont, Ill.-based National Roofing Contractors Association’s Gold Circle Award for outstanding service to the industry. (See “A Review of Slate Roofs: Design and Installation Manual, to learn more about the manual’s contents.)

The National Slate Association’s current board of directors includes President John Chan, The Durable Slate Co., New Orleans; Senior Vice President Robert Fulmer, Fulmer Consultants, Freeport, Maine; Vice President Dave Large, North Country Slate, Toronto; Vice President Brian Chalsma, The Roofing Co., Hampton, Va.; and Treasurer Pete Papay, Penn Big Bed Slate Co., Slatington, Pa. Jeff Levine, Levine and Co., Ardmore, Pa., is the immediate past president, and Julie Palmer, also of Levine and Co., is the office manager.

Board members are Dan Cornwell, CC&L Roofing, Portland, Ore.; Alan Buohl, GSM Roofing, Ephrata, Pa.; Glenn Downes, Garlock French, Minneapolis; Clay Heald, New England Slate, Poultney, Vt.; Matt Hicks, Evergreen Slate Co., Middle Granville, N.Y.; Brad Jones Sr., Buckingham Slate Co., Arvonia, Va.; Craig LeGere, Mid-America Slate and Stone, Chesterfield, Mo.; Matt Millen, Millen Roofing, Milwaukee; and Russ Watsky, Russell Watsky Inc., Ossining, N.Y.

The National Slate Association would like to invite any interested parties to join the association. Sign up online or email John Chan. Write P.O. Box 172, Poultney, VT 05764.

A Slate Roofer Shares Slate’s History in and Benefits for the Carolinas

Although slate had been used as ballast for ships crossing the Atlantic as early as the mid-1600s, its use was somewhat sparse in the Carolinas until after the great fire. With the Civil War in full bloom, a catastrophic fire broke out in Charleston in 1861, and the city was decimated. However, the Great Reconstruction Era (1865-77) brought shiploads of slate and bricks from North Wales. Welsh slate from the Penrhyn quarries and bricks and tiles from Flintshire and Chester made their way to nearby Liverpool, England, and ultimately to the historic Battery of Charleston.

Not to be outdone, the American quarries started to ship to the Carolinas also. New quarries opened up all along the New York and Vermont corridor, and, in the South, the Virginia Buckingham Co. started quarrying slate in 1867. Slate roofing was growing exponentially at this time, and the Carolinas were consuming it at a very rapid rate.

This dormer features Vermont Black installed in a German style.

This dormer features Vermont Black installed in a German style.

As a large port city, Charleston was able to acquire a wealth of different types of slate for its roofs: purple and gray slates from Penrhyn, Wales; Pennsylvania black slates; lustrous black Buckingham slates from Virginia; and greens, purples and reds from Vermont. Although it took more than a decade, Charleston was rebuilt in a grand manner with beautiful slate roofs as far as the eye could see.

Unfortunately, in 1989 Hurricane Hugo struck Charleston, causing nearly $6 billion in damage. The silver lining was many of these historic properties with slate roofs were 100 to 200 years old by 1989 and were in need of major restoration. From 1989-91, Charleston experienced a huge building boom with the insurance companies footing the bill for the restoration of the city. Tradespeople skilled in historic restoration were called in from all over the country and world. Among them were slate roofers hired to assess and restore the city’s slate roofs.

Learning Experience

Having only been a slate roofer for four years at the time, Charleston proved to be a great learning experience for me. Often working 12- to 15-hour days to keep up with the workload, I was able to personally observe various slating techniques from more than a century ago.

For example, still one of the most unique slate roofs I’ve encountered in my 20-plus years in slate roofing, was on a private residence on King Street. It had sustained minimal damage, and in the process of our repairs, we could see why. The entire slate roof was laid in a bed of mortar with wooden pegs where one usually finds nails. Needless to say, it was quite an adventure to restore it back to its prominence.

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Are You ‘PV Ready’?

Commercial rooftops are an attractive platform for the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity-producing systems. These low-slope roofs offer an economical and sustainable structural foundation for renewable solar energy. As an example, one of the largest roof-mounted PV systems in North Carolina has been online for several months at the Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. vault logistics facility in Thomasville. Almost 7,700 solar panels completely cover the warehouse’s 160,000-square-foot roof and produce enough power (1.8 megawatts) to offset more than 90 percent of the building’s annual energy costs.

Success stories like Old Dominion’s are becoming increasingly common in the sunny Carolinas. However, it is important to remember a roof’s function is, first and foremost, to protect the building’s contents and people from the elements. In this regard, roofing professionals need to anticipate the potential risks associated with the installation of a roof-mounted PV system (array). This sort of due diligence is particularly important when installing PV systems on existing warranted roofs.

A broad selection of membranes and thicknesses are available for consideration when a PV installation is planned. Photo courtesy of GAF, Wayne, N.J., and Protech Roofing Service, San Diego

A broad selection of membranes and thicknesses are available for consideration when a PV installation is planned. Photo courtesy of GAF, Wayne, N.J., and Protech Roofing Service, San Diego

To help in these industry efforts, members of Waltham, Mass.-based SPRI—the trade association that represents sheet membrane and component suppliers to the commercial roofing industry—have developed “PV Ready” roof assemblies and guidelines designed to provide maximum protection for the roof (and maintain its warranty coverage).

In September, SPRI’s technical committee and board of directors also approved and distributed to its members Technical Bulletin 1-13A, “Summary of SPRI Membrane Manufacturer Photovoltaic (PV) Ready Roof Systems and Services”. The bulletin contains general guidelines from SPRI related to “PV Ready” roof assemblies. This article goes into more depth about issues related to PV installations, particularly on existing warranted roofs.

Ask the Right Questions

The installation of a PV system on an existing warranted roof raises many important questions for the roofing professional and building owner. For example, will the roof accommodate the added weight of the PV array? Logistically speaking, before property owners decide on a solar-power system, they will need to determine whether their roofs are sturdy enough to support
the additional loads put on the existing roof structure by the solar array.

An average solar panel and support system typically add a minimum of 3 to 4 pounds per square foot to the existing roof. It is the responsibility of the roofing professional to ensure this additional weight does not exceed the load limits determined by the building’s designer.

From an economic (life-cycle-cost) point of view, it makes sense the service life of the existing roof membrane will come close to matching the projected service life of the PV system. If not, a complex and costly reroofing project may be required long before the solar panels need to be replaced. In general, the underlying roofing system must provide the same minimum investment horizon—generally at least 25 years—to realize the full potential of the rooftop PV system.

Most PV arrays require penetrating the roof membrane. Even non-rack-type systems may include electrical conduits, wiring and other components that may need to be flashed in a professional manner. It is essential the responsibility for this flashing work rests with the roofing contractor.

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